Thursday, February 1, 2007

Another Congressional Corruption Case on the Way

The fallout from the bribery of former Representative Randy "Duke" Cunningham looks like it is about to hit, according to an article in the North County Times (here).  Brent Wilkes, who Cunningham admitted paid him substantial bribes to win no-bid defense contracts, has been under investigation by the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Southern District of California for over a year, and government "sources" are saying that charges are imminent.  U.S. Attorney Carol Lam was among the seven federal prosecutors forced out by the Department of Justice, and before she closes the books on her tenure, she reportedly has asked that the Wilkes indictment be finalized.

One aspect of the media reports may be a bit troublesome for the U.S. Attorney's Office, however.  The North County Times story has the following quotes:

"I know we are so close," said one official, who agreed to speak with the North County Times on the condition that his name not be published. A preliminary draft indictment is under review by "many eyes on what is going to be proposed to the grand jury," according to the source.

Talking about a draft grand jury indictment and stating how "close" it is looks like a violation of the grand jury secrecy requirement of Federal Rule of Criminal Procedure 6(e), which provides that any government attorney or agent "must not disclose a matter occurring before the grand jury."  A decision to seek an indictment likely comes within the scope of a "matter occurring before the grand jury," which is not limited to just what takes place in the grand jury room.  Rule 6(e)(7) states that "[a] knowing violation of Rule 6 . . . may be punished as a contempt of court."  Wilkes's attorney is Mark Geragos, who is known for defending Scott Peterson and Barry Bonds' former trainer, Greg Anderson, and he has not been shy in advocating on behalf of his clients.  This type of disclosure to the media from an unnamed government source is likely to trigger a call by Geragos for an internal investigation of the prosecutors and agents involved in the case to learn who violated Rule 6.  These types of investigations are never pleasant, to be sure, and probably would draw the reporter into the inquiry, raising once again issues related to confidential sources. (ph)

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